Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said her office is working to release some incarcerated at the Shelby County Jail and has dismissed “hundreds” of cases of those recently charged, all moves to reduce the jail’s population and stem the spread of coronavirus.
“We’re open,” Weirich said in a YouTube video Friday, giving answers to many questions her office has fielded from the public. Her staff has been working every day during the shelter-in-place mandate ordered by Memphis and Shelby County Mayors. Judges, Weirich said, have been handling cases in every court.
Weirich said she’s been asked what her office is doing to reduce the jail population. Earlier this week, the Tennessee Supreme Court mandated judges across the state to review jail and prison populations and provide a plan to reduce them.
Weirich said the jail at 201 Poplar held 1,935 inmates as of Friday afternoon. The population was over 2,600 at the beginning of the year, she said, adding that there are already many processes in place to reduce the figure.
“Those in custody at 201 Poplar are charged with very serious, violent crimes, and many have histories that go back years," Weirich said. “Individuals charged with low-level offenses are rarely — if ever — in jail. We are looking every day for people we can safely, reasonably, and responsibly release back into the community.”
Those in her office are working with defense attorneys to fast-track cases awaiting guilty pleas. This process usually takes months, Weirich said, and it has been reduced to days.
During her video, Weirich held up a letter and said if you’ve recently been charged with a crime, “You might get one from me.”
“I am sending hundreds of letters to out-of-custody defendants telling them we’ve reviewed their case and are dismissing their case and that you do not need to come back to court,” Weirich said. “If you get a letter like this, it is not a joke.”
Shelter-in-place messages from the mayors have some confused about their court duties, she said. However, those with a subpoena or court order “are exempt because you are necessary to the administration of justice.” She said her office will call victims and witnesses to come to court.
For more information, call Weirich’s office at (901) 222-1300.